Study links yo-yo dieting to poor post-menopause heart health

The quest for a fashion model’s figure leads many girls and women to a cycle of weight loss and weight gain called yo-yo dieting. Some women never succeed in achieving or maintaining their desired weight, although some do. Researchers at the VA/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System are cautioning all women who yo-yo diet. Those who gain and/or lose at least 10 pounds in a yearlong period at least five times over a lifetime may be setting themselves up for heart problems after menopause.From the University of Michigan Health System:Study links yo-yo dieting to poor post-menopause heart health
Dieting history joins high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking as indicator of poor cardiovascular function

ANN ARBOR, MI – The quest for a fashion model’s figure leads many girls and women to a cycle of weight loss and weight gain called yo-yo dieting. Some women never succeed in achieving or maintaining their desired weight, although some do. Researchers at the VA/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System are cautioning all women who yo-yo diet. Those who gain and/or lose at least 10 pounds in a yearlong period at least five times over a lifetime may be setting themselves up for heart problems after menopause.

Cardiologist Claire Duvernoy, M.D., and her team looked at women’s weight, their weight swings over a lifetime and compared these to the blood flow to their heart and how the lining of the blood vessels were affected. They found that post-menopausal yo-yo dieters were much more likely to have reduced myocardial blood flow, regardless of current weight.

“So, even if a woman in our study was now thin, getting there by yo-yo dieting was shown to have a negative affect on the blood flow to her heart,” says Duvernoy, who is director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the VA/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and an assistant professor of internal medicine/cardiology at the U-M Medical School. “This is important because reduced blood flow to the heart could be an indication of a blockage in coronary arteries, or in the small blood vessels of the heart, which could eventually trigger a heart attack or stroke.”

How can someone avoid this post-menopause health problem? The best way, says Duvernoy, is to recognize early that yo-yo dieting is not a good tool for long-term health.

“Physicians of all kinds are saying this over and over, because it is the best advice: eating nutritious foods in moderation and getting moderate exercise several times a week is really the best way to stay healthy over a lifetime. Nature doesn’t intend for each and every one of us to have a model-perfect figure; it’s far more important to make healthy choices about food and exercise,” Duvernoy says.

In a second study of post-menopausal women, Duvernoy found that women with high cholesterol and at least one other risk factor for heart disease also had less blood flow in their heart if they did not have the habit of routine, moderate exercise.

Generally speaking, these women would be described as healthy but at high risk for heart disease. Researchers measured the blood flow to their hearts. The women also filled out a questionnaire on their health habits, including exercise and its frequency.
They fell into two groups: those who exercise at least twice a week for at least 20 minutes per session, and those who exercised less.

“We found a significant difference in blood flow between the women who exercise regularly and those who didn’t,” Duvernoy says.

Women, estrogen and cardiovascular health
More women die of heart disease in this country each year than do men. And although women live longer than men, their terminal event is usually cardiovascular disease of some kind. Scientists are still not sure why this is. However, they do know that the natural estrogen level in a woman’s body is associated with healthy cholesterol. After menopause, the natural estrogen levels go down, and its natural protection, so women’s risk for heart disease goes up.

While high cholesterol alone is a risk factor for heart disease, the risk is even greater when someone has one or more of these risk factors as well:
? Diabetes
? Smoking
? High blood pressure
? Obesity
? Family history of heart disease

“The common sense conclusion should be that moderate physical activity helps to protect your heart and it may help to normalize the blood flow in the heart. Post-menopausal women who don’t exercise can still add exercise to their weekly routine in order to promote a healthy cardiovascular system,” Duvernoy says.

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